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How Blockchain could transform luxury brands

August 19th, 2019

High-end consumers are increasingly turning to ethically produced products and are willing to pay a premium for these goods. But the luxury industry has a chequered history with sustainability. Dr Navdeep Athwal believes that Blockchain could be the answer that brands are looking for.

Luxury brands have a controversial relationship with sustainability due to a lack of transparency in the supply chain and accusations of animal and worker exploitation. Yet some of the industry’s most significant markets – Millennials and Chinese consumers – are increasingly seeking products that are both sourced sustainably and produced ethically.

Dr Navdeep Athwal, in a paper co-authored with digital agency specialising in the luxury industry Verb Brands, argues that Blockchain, the technology behind Bitcoin, is the solution to providing traceability in the luxury sector.

Blockchain is focused on security and transparency. The technology promises data authenticity through the use of advanced encryption and data validation algorithms. Using this powerful technology could give rise to a new generation of luxury sustainability monitoring, traceability and reporting – the key for brands prioritising transparency.

Each step of a product’s journey from source to store could be logged thereby creating an electronic decentralised ledger. With open access to this information, customers could read about a product’s provenance and verify its green credentials. This technology is also attractive to major brands as it could help to solve the issue of counterfeiting, again by tracking each link in the supply chain.

International diamond retailer, De Beers, already use a similar system called ‘tracr’ to decrease the likelihood that their gems were sourced in conflict-zones.

Dr Athwal added:

“Blockchain might not be the first technology that comes to mind when considering sustainability, however I believe that this technology can improve the visibility of supply chains within the luxury industry, in turn driving forward sustainability”.

Dr Naveep Athwal

Traceability in the luxury supply chain is just one aspect of how embracing the digital revolution could change the industry.

The whitepaper highlights the need for brands to adapt to the ever-changing digital environment and continually evolve to meet customers’ emerging demands. Dubbing this phenomenon Digital Darwinism, the authors of the report spell out a warning to key players in the industry: adapt or perish.  

Further research conducted by Dr Athwal explores sustainable luxury and how Blockchain can be utilised in this context in more detail. Many luxury powerhouses, such as LVMH and Kering, employ sustainability as a key strategic priority and have the ability to implement large-scale change such as using Blockchain to promote transparency.

Dr Athwal commented:

“Luxury shoppers have long been engaging in eco-conscious mindful buying behaviours, and the development of CSR initiatives by luxury organisations like LVMH; owners of Louis Vuitton may well see the adoption for blockchain technology not just to eliminate the problem of counterfeiting, but also to create transparent environmentally friendly supply chains”.


Read the full whitepaper and discover more about Dr Athwal’s research below.
Digital Darwinism; The Evolution of Luxury Fashion 2019
(https://verbbrands.com/digital-darwinism-luxury-fashion/)
Sustainable Luxury Marketing: A Synthesis and Research Agenda (https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/ijmr.12195)
The allure of luxury brands’ social media activities: a uses and gratifications perspective (https://www.emerald.com/insight/content/doi/10.1108/ITP-01-2018-0017/full/html)
 

Place-based ecosystems: making connections between entrepreneurship and innovation

June 24th, 2019

A team of academics from the Centre for Regional Economic and Enterprise Development (CREED) at Sheffield University Management School (SUMS) participated in an ESRC funded two-day workshop in Tokyo, Japan, exploring new insights into entrepreneurial ecosystems. Dr Chay Brooks, Dr Cristian Gherhes and Professor Tim Vorley are collaborating in a new project exploring the future of entrepreneurial ecosystems and the importance of innovation for the future of the UK economy. Dr Cristian Gherhes, a Research Associate at CREED commented: “The opportunity to be in Japan and participating in this event highlights the exciting work of CREED in pushing research horizons.”

The workshop, organised by Dr Fumi Kitagawa of the University of Edinburgh, brought together universities, government and innovative businesses from across the United Kingdom and Japan to discuss a range of emergent issues relating to global science and innovation policy. Speakers tackled topics ranging from the current approach of start-up policies to the past, present and future of ecosystems in both countries, as well as how entrepreneurial ecosystems are evaluated and measured.

The workshop programme included a series of high profile speakers from the British Embassy in Japan, the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (also known as MEXT), Japanese Cabinet Office, Tokyo Metropolitan Government, Osaka Prefectural Government Office, Bureau of Industrial and Labour Affairs, alongside Universities across Tokyo. The team from CREED all acted as respondents across the panels, providing international reflection on the presentations.

Speaker at workshop In conjunction with Japanese partners CREED will continue to engage in this  programme of research going forward and will explore how entrepreneurial ecosystems are being developed in global contexts. The project sits alongside the ongoing relationship between SUMS and Kobe University, part of which CREED PhD student Sara Ballero is researching entrepreneurship and enterprise in rural areas.

This work forms part of a broader portfolio of interdisciplinary research led by CREED examining the policy and practice of innovation, entrepreneurship and regional economic development both in the UK and around the world. This project builds on continuing work with UK and international governments and organisations.

In commenting on the visit to Japan and participation in the event at the National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies Dr Chay Brooks said:

“This is an excellent example of CREED engaging in internationally leading initiatives. We are delighted to be part of this initiative funded by the Economic and Social Research Council and hope it leads to other opportunities.”

1st ReTraCE Network School

May 30th, 2019
ReTraCE: Realising the Transition towards the Circular Economy
ReTraCE: Realising the Transition towards the Circular Economy

Sheffield University Management School will be hosting an international summer school (3-7 June 2019) focussed on Circular Economy.

A circular economy is an alternative to a traditional linear economy (make, use, dispose) in which we keep resources for as long as possible, extract the maximum value from them whilst in use, then recover and regenerate products and materials at the end of their useful life.

Realising the Transition to the Circular Economy (ReTraCE) is a €4 million research project funded by Horizon 2020 EU’s Marie Skłodowska-Curie Innovative Training Networks and led by the University of Sheffield. The project brings together world-leading experts from a wide set of beneficiaries and partners to achieve breakthroughs in understanding how the transition towards a circular economy can be realised – both within existing organisations and industries as well as through innovative and sustainable business models.

The Network School is the first project event associated with the ReTraCE project and brings together all members of the project from all over the world. Speakers include academics and practitioners from industry, public authorities and the third sector[.

Project leader, Professor Andrea Genovese said: “We are really looking forward to hosting the whole community of the ReTraCE project, and a lot of external guests, here in Sheffield.”

“We have tried our best to design an exciting training week. Participants will not only gain new knowledge and skills, but also establish a network of relationships which will fully equip a cohort of thought leaders capable of driving our transition towards a Circular Economy. The collective intelligence, enthusiasm and strength of our ESRs will be the true driving force of the project.”

There are a few places available for Early Career Researchers and students from other institutions that are not part of the ReTraCE consortium. To book a place, please contact Network Manager, Patrizia Baldi (p.baldi@sheffield.ac.uk).

A full agenda of the event is available here.


Involving people with lived experience of mental health issues in mental health training could address gaps in current knowledge, say researchers

May 14th, 2019
  • Management School academics release report on the role of lived experience in mental health training during Mental Health Awareness Week 2019
  • Scoping report spotlights gaps in current knowledge of research on how best to involve people with lived experience in mental health training
  • Report flags six priority areas for further research enquiry

Sheffield University Management School academics highlight the need for more research on how people with lived experience of mental health issues are involved in mental health training.

Professor Rachael Finn and Dr Kamal Birdi, Sheffield University Management School, received funding from the Sheffield Health and Social Care NHS Foundation Trust’s Research Capacity Fund to conduct research on the role of lived experience in mental health training.

The project involved a review of current literature on the evaluation and effectiveness of lived experience education in mental health training, a practice review to identify the variety of lived experience education courses in the Sheffield City Region, and a co-production workshop attended by service users, lived experience educators and academics. The workshop was an arena to discuss the reviews, share experiences and prioritise areas for further research.

Report launch

Coinciding with Mental Health Awareness Week 2019, the report will be launched on Tuesday 14 May at Sheffield Health and Social Care. Sheffield Health and Social Care provide specialist services to improve the mental, physical and social wellbeing of the people living in local communities.

Professor Finn and Dr Birdi concluded that existing research is patchy and highlight the need for further research that is co-produced with mental health practitioners and people with lived experience of mental health issues to help address gaps in current knowledge.

“It’s been great to carry out this work with a team of people passionate about user involvement in education and training of mental health professionals. This is a crucial area for research because whilst it is increasingly accepted as good practice and there are many exciting initiatives locally and nationally, we know a lot less about how best to do this meaningfully and the impact this has on services and experiences of care.”

Professor Rachael Finn

“From a practical viewpoint, it was clear that health organisations need to have proactive strategies on how to engage, develop and support lived experience educators as opposed to taking an ad hoc approach.”

Dr Kamal Birdi

Future research

Based on this initial scoping project, Professor Finn and Dr Birdi compiled six priority areas for further research and produced nine practical recommendations for improving the value of lived experience in the training of mental health professionals, including:

  • Health Organisations need to develop an overall strategy to involve Service User Educators (SUEs) in education and training
  • Ensure role clarity for SUEs
  • Provide ongoing training and support for SUEs
  • Target relevant populations for training
  • Ensure co-trainer clarity on need for lived experience in their programme
  • Ensure SUEs are prepared for different types of sessions
  • Ensure preparation of trainees
  • Allow flexibility in delivery of sessions to accommodate personal preferences
  • Provide post-session debriefing and support for SUEs

The full report can be accessed by visiting the Institute of Work Psychology website.

Researchers awarded major grant to study productivity and workplace wellbeing

May 9th, 2019
  • The Sheffield team, led by Professor Paul Latreille, was one of only five projects selected for the major new grant from the ESRC
  • The UK lags behind other developed economies for productivity 
  • Improving workplace wellbeing is increasingly in focus as a priority to tackle the productivity challenge

Researchers at The University of Sheffield’s Management School have been awarded part of a £3.8m ESRC fund looking at workplace productivity and wellbeing.

Conflict, low staff engagement and poor line management are some of the workplace challenges that can lead to weak productivity.

Leading the project team, which includes Professor Richard Saundry at the University of Plymouth, Professor Peter Urwin at the University of Westminster and Gill Dix at Acas, Professor Latreille hopes to achieve two, related things. The project will provide ‘gold standard’ evidence of the impact of a new training intervention delivered by Acas aimed at enhancing line manager competencies, including how they deal with conflict.

Secondly, that in highlighting those critical competencies and how these can be developed, it will make an important, practical contribution to tackling the UK’s ‘productivity challenge’.

“We want to see if a short, training intervention focused on enhancing these skills can improve managers’ confidence and capability, and whether this results in enhanced employee and engagement and measurable gains in productivity.”
Professor Paul Latreille

The UK Government has set productivity at the heart of their Industrial Strategy to boost employment, deliver advanced infrastructure and support technological advances.

The project is a further demonstration of The University of Sheffield’s multidisciplinary approach to knowledge exchange with key partners tackling the grand challenges of the Industrial Strategy.

Professor Paul Latreille said: “Line managers play a vital role in developing (and maintaining) positive working relationships, employee engagement and performance. Yet when we talk to HR practitioners, they regularly tell us that while managers may have strong technical skills, their interpersonal skills are often less well developed. In particular, managers may struggle to deal with difficult situations such as conflict with or between team members.”

Acas Head of Workplace Policy, Gill Dix, said: “The UK workforce produces less per hour than our main competitors such as Germany, France and the US. We’re excited to be involved in this research project and to play our part in helping to improve the UK’s workplace productivity.
“We believe that the way workplaces are organised, the part played by managers and involving employees can deliver better outcomes for workers, organisations and the economy. One key aspect to this is ensuring managers are trained to deal with conflict in the workplace.
“Last year Acas trained over 40,000 people across nearly 1000 organisations and we look forward to incorporating any learning points off the back of this study to help improve productivity within the UK.”

Dr Annie Gibney, Portfolio lead at ESRC for Management & Business Studies and Transforming Working Lives said: “This is a very strong set of projects that address the key management practices and employee engagement challenges facing business owners, managers and workers. Not only are they examples of excellent academic research that work closely with firms, policy-makers and key stakeholders – but they also have a real opportunity to lead to meaningful change in business and policy practices.”

Contributing to the global debate on entrepreneurship

April 25th, 2019

Colleagues from the Management School have just returned from taking a team of eight students to the Global Entrepreneurship Congress (GEC) held in Bahrain where they debating the challenges facing the future of entrepreneurship.

Every year, the GEC gathers together thousands of entrepreneurs, investors, researchers, policymakers and other startup champions from more than 170 countries to identify new ways of helping founders start and scale new ventures around the world. This year’s event, hosted in Bahrain, was attended by a team of eight high-achieving students from the University’s Faculty of Social Sciences. Led by the Management School’s Dr Chay Brooks and supported by Professor Tim Vorley and Dr Cristian Gherhes, the team worked as policy analysts to identify and explain the challenges that many countries are facing to address economic and social imperatives as well as the roadmaps for the future of entrepreneurship.

  • The GEC brings together thousands of entrepreneurs, investors, researchers and policymakers to understand the global dimensions of entrepreneurship and innovation. The Congress aims to support participants in gaining new insights and connecting people across borders. The 2019 edition focused on the themes of a global entrepreneurial revolution, inclusive entrepreneurship and high-performance ecosystems with the goal to grow economies and expand human welfare through innovative and sustainable means.

    Sheffield’s team produced a a series of live blogs and policy briefs during the GEC which have been published online in the Global Policy journal. The students were able to develop their skills as as policy analysts by providing critical reflections on the global dimensions of policies that aim to promote entrepreneurial-led growth. Another key part of the experience involved engaging with successful entrepreneurs, academics and important stakeholders from government and non-governmental institutions who play major roles in the development of local, national and international policies.

    Attendance at the GEC was part of Sheffield’s Global Leadership Initiative (GLI) which gives undergraduate and postgraduate taught students from the Faculty of Social Sciences the opportunity to attend major international summits. GLI activities provide students with first-hand experience of international policy debates at the highest level and produce outputs visible to an international audience thereby enhancing their research skills and employability.

    Dr Chay Brooks is a Lecturer in International Entrepreneurship at Sheffield University Management School. Professor Tim Vorley is a Professor of Entrepreneurship at Sheffield University Management School. Dr Cristian Gherhes is a Research Associate at Sheffield University Management School. The GLI Team working as policy analysts at the GEC were Jocelyne Girgis (Law), Dominik Brauchart (Management School), Salifyanji Simwanza (Economics), William Szabo (Management School), Louise Litten (Politics), Lars Kjoellesdal (Management School), Syeda Zahra (Management School), and Joseph Dunn (Economics).


    Mentoring students brought great results for engineering boss

    April 4th, 2019

    Award-winning Chesterfield company Thermotex has a new engineer onboard.

    Thanks to its boss taking the time to mentor students. MD Chloe Watmore was asked by the University of Sheffield to set a real-time challenge for its Management School to tackle. She jumped at the chance to bring fresh new ideas into her business while helping students learn.

    The project was an all-round success. Students on the international module of their MBA gained invaluable experience. And Chloe gained not only a new company strategy for developing overseas markets – but also a Texan mechanical engineer. MBA graduate Paige Niehues has joined the thermal solutions specialist as Commercial and Technical Executive. She has years of experience in the oil and gas sector, a core specialism for Thermotex.

    The award-winning 24-year-old company custom-designs high-performance insulation jackets and heat tracing systems relied on for temperature control by companies around the globe – from oil and gas refineries in the Arctic Circle to international construction companies and UK chocolate factories.

    Chloe said: “The Management School invited me to bring a live business issue to students. We have exported for many years, but we want to establish new overseas markets and asked four groups of students to research this and come up with strategies. I was really impressed and developed a company strategy which merged all four.

    “Paige was in one of the groups. She reached out to me while working on her dissertation on the digitalisation of manufacturing, which Thermotex is heavily invested in.

    “I worked with her and she so impressed me I offered her a job. She is now implementing the new overseas growth strategy she helped to create.”

    Chloe joined the company her parents founded in 1995 as a 20-year-old Economics graduate. She revolutionised factory processes, grew international trade and led the company to record growth.

    Chloe added: “Working with the University of Sheffield was extremely rewarding. We have pledged to continue this partnership and I would urge other businesses to get involved. It’s an opportunity to provide students with exciting, real-world case studies and to bring smart, creative new ideas into your business.”

    Chloe has now asked this year’s students to assist Thermotex in expanding its manufacturing presence overseas.

    New recruit Paige began her career in Houston as a product design engineer with a large oil and gas company. She moved to the UK after meeting her future husband at her employers’ manufacturing plant in Leeds and enrolled at the University of Sheffield to study for an MBA in 2017.

    Paige commented: “When Chloe came to my university she really impressed me, I am thrilled to now be working for her. Thermotex is an exciting place to be. The company is constantly striving to embrace new tech, improve processes and grow exports and partnerships.

    “I’m enjoying applying my past engineering experience with what I learned in my MBA. and helping the company to grow.”

    Dr Vasilios Theoharakis, Director of MBA Programmes at the University of Sheffield, said: “We are delighted with Paige’s success in securing a role at Thermotex, which came as a result of working on a company-based project while attending the Sheffield MBA.

    “Such projects enhance student experience, and this one allowed Thermotex to recognise Paige’s talent, which resulted in her recruitment. With an average of around 10 years of work experience, Sheffield MBA students are equipped to add value to the businesses they work with.”

    Find out more about our MBA programme.

    PhD Studentship: Localised Energy Generation and Storage for EV Fleet Vehicle Charging

    March 21st, 2019

    We are delighted to announce that we have a funded PhD opportunity working on a project titled ‘Localised Energy Generation and Storage for EV Fleet Vehicle Charging’.

    Supervisors

    Dr Erica Ballantyne – Logistics & Supply Chain Research Centre

    Professor David Stone – Centre for Research into Electrical Energy Storage and Applications

    Project description

    Continued population growth has led to increased transport demands, to, from, and within urban areas. This has significantly impacted upon urban air quality, resulting in increased pressure to improve air quality and address sources of pollution from transport. Many local authorities in the UK (and beyond) are tackling air pollution through the introduction of Clean Air Zones and Low Emission Zones as part of the government’s broader Air Quality Plan. These encourage the exploration and adoption of cleaner emission and cleaner fuelled vehicles, particularly for commercial fleets that are the main focus of many clean air zone policies.

    Electric Vehicles (EVs) are a potentially effective technological response to reduce road transport emissions. However, EVs are not entirely emission free, with many using grid generated electricity to charge on-board batteries. Further, growing promotion of EV use, from private cars to commercial vehicle fleets, particularly in urban environments, has practical implications around the challenge of electricity grid capacity for mass EV charging, requiring significant infrastructure investment to upgrade the existing grid supply in the UK.

    This interdisciplinary PhD project seeks to:

    • Examine the feasibility of using EV batteries for grid support and localised energy storage for all-electric and hybrid-electric vehicle fleets.
    • Determine the impact on emissions reduction of using localised energy storage through EVs at mass charging points.
    • Explore the economic, and socio-political aspects of energy storage and revenue streams from EV usage.
    • Evaluate the business case for using commercial EV fleets for pseudo-stationary energy storage using EVs.
    • Determine the barriers and drivers for fleet EV users to utilise mass energy storage and charging facilities.
    • Assess the suitability of fleet vehicle depot locations for EV grid storage and charging.
    • Identify and evaluate the technical barriers to implementation of EV grid storage in commercial fleet locations and maximise the benefits to all players.

    Eligibility

    The studentship is funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) Doctoral Training Studentship scheme and is open to UK/EU citizens. The EPSRC DTP Grant will pay RCUK fees and stipend for up to 3.5 years and a RTSG of £1000 per annum.

    Start dates

    We recommend that students start on 1 October 2019 in order to attend compulsory training. However, it may be possible to start earlier.

    Closing date for applications

    Applications will be considered until a suitable candidate has been identified. For the 1 October start date, a full application must have been received by 17 June 2019.

    How to apply

    Visit www.sheffield.ac.uk/management/study/researchdegrees/howtoapply for full details.

    For an informal discussion, please contact e.e.ballantyne@sheffield.ac.uk.

    University of Sheffield and Microsoft collaboration develop tool to help scientists forecast future impact of climate change, population growth and energy use

    March 20th, 2019
    • Predictor tool developed by the University of Sheffield will help scientists forecast future impact of climate change, population growth and energy use
    • The Supply Chain Environmental Analysis Tool (SCEnAT) 4.0 uses large scale databases including from the World Bank and NASA Satelillite maps and embedded autonomous learning
    • Policy makers and industry leaders can use the predictor to have a deeper understanding of the implications of investment decisions and policy

    A pioneering predictor tool developed by the University of Sheffield will give scientists an alternative way to visualise the world and help to forecast the impact of climate change, population growth and energy use.

    The Supply Chain Environmental Analysis Tool (SCEnAT) 4.0 uses large scale databases – including from the World Bank and NASA Satellite maps – numerical, graphic and textual data with embedded autonomous learning.

    The new tool will be able to predict the relationship between climate change, political economy, innovation, life expectancy, population growth and energy use, on sustainable development and resources.

    The University of Sheffield, in collaboration with Microsoft, has been working for the past eight years to solve the global challenge of depleting resources. The new tool has been pioneered through the University’s Advanced Resource Efficiency Centre (AREC) by Professor Lenny Koh.

    “We are very proud of the long standing relationship between the University of Sheffield AREC and Microsoft,” said Professor Koh, Director of the AREC.

    “SCEnAT 4.0 is borne from this ongoing collaboration in the era of Industry 4.0; and the Cloud and AI economy. SCEnAT 4.0 AI capabilities fit strategically with the AI sector Deal announced by the UK Government.

    “Globally, AI interests are on the rise especially in the USA, China and Europe, whilst the global revenue from the AI market is projected at circa 90 billion USD in 2025 in tune with the increasing global demand for more sustainable and resource efficient solutions. SCEnAT 4.0 framework and platform are well-positioned for such worldwide scale-up rapidly.”

    SCEnAT 4.0 has evolved from the original SCEnAT Cloud based tool, powered by Microsoft Azure, which has helped companies reduce the environmental impact of their supply chains.

    The collaboration between the University of Sheffield and Microsoft progressed the tool into SCEnAT+ and SCEnATi – funded by the EU – which has the addition of big data analytics and benchmarking capabilities along with Power BI integration, a Microsoft business analytics service.

    Anthony Bitar, Cloud Solution Architect, Microsoft UK, said: “Policy makers and industry leaders can exploit the prediction experiencer from SCEnAT 4.0 to have a deeper understanding of the implications of policy and investment decisions.

    “We are excited by how the combination of Microsoft’s Azure cloud and AI services are being used in the SCEnAT 4.0 platform to de-risk and visualise the relationship of economic, environmental and social impact from the way we produce and consume resources.”

    Addressing the productivity challenge in the UK

    March 12th, 2019

    Academics, policymakers and business leaders from across the UK are set to gather in Sheffield tomorrow 13 March 2019 to tackle one of the UK’s most pressing economic challenges: how to raise productivity.

    They will gather in Sheffield for a conference titled ‘Changing the Tone of the Debate’. The conference is organised by the Productivity Insights Network at the Sheffield University Management School.

    The event will take place in the University’s historic Firth Hall building and will hosted by Lord Jim O’Neill. Prominent figures including Sir Paul Collier, Professor Jennifer Rubin, and Mr Murray Sherwin will deliver keynote addresses looking at how to address productivity discrepancies across Britain, how productivity varies in practice, and how research can help solve this productivity puzzle.

    Professor Tim Vorley, Sheffield University Management School,  said, “Given the highly regional nature of the productivity puzzle it is fantastic that the University of Sheffield is hosting the Productivity Insights Network conference, which brings a number of leading figures together to advance thinking on the productivity puzzle.”

    “The Productivity Insights Network is leading a major programme of work bringing together researchers, policymakers, businesses and civil society stakeholders to change the tone of the productivity debate and what this means for people and places across the UK.”

    For more information about the Productivity Insights Network, visit: https://productivityinsightsnetwork.co.uk/